Community of Inquiry: Social presence revisited

  • Kreijns K
  • Van Acker F
  • Vermeulen M
 et al. 
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Social presence is a construct that has attracted the attention of many educational scholars involved in online collaborative learning settings wherein all the dialogue is happening through textbased asynchronous and synchronous communication channels. The social presence of the learning group members is associated with the degree of participation and social interaction amongst them and, as such, is therefore considered a critical variable for learning. The Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework defines social presence as the ability to project one's personal identity in the online community so that she or he is perceived as a 'real' person and/or as progressing through the phases (1) acquiring a social identity, (2) having purposeful communication, and (3) building relationships. However, the CoI social presence construct and its operationalization still leave many issues open. In this article, the original social presence construct is disentangled, concluding that it actually represents two constructs, namely (1) 'social presence' (degree of 'realness' of the other in the communication), and (2) 'social space' (degree to which social interpersonal relationships are salient). It is identified that social presence in the CoI model is actually integrating both constructs but with an emphasis on social space. Extending the CoI framework by making a distinction between social presence and social space is beneficial to the CoI model, because attention to its design and implementation can now be more precise. In addition, as social presence and social space are both progressive and developmental in nature, it fits the underlying philosophy of the CoI framework that embraces this dynamic characteristic.

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